update deskJewish & Israeli Culture

Aaron Lansky to step down from Yiddish Book Center

“Everything I dreamed of, I’ve been able to do,” said the founder of an organization that works to preserve a vital element of Jewish history.

Aaron Lansky, founder of the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., at the Sammy Awards in 2016. Credit: Oliver Scott via Wikimedia Commons.
Aaron Lansky, founder of the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., at the Sammy Awards in 2016. Credit: Oliver Scott via Wikimedia Commons.

Aaron Lansky calls himself “one of the luckiest people in the world” because he “got to sit at the kitchen table with literally thousands of Jews who were bequeathing their greatest treasure to me.”

On Tuesday, Lansky announced his retirement from the organization he had formed, the Yiddish Book Center, which has collected more than 1.5 million Yiddish language books since the late 1970s. Experts at the time believed that there were only 70,000 books available.

Lansky wrote in his memoir, Outwitting History, that he sought “to save the world’s Yiddish books before it was too late.” He said, “Everything I dreamed of, I’ve been able to do.”

His retirement date is set for June 2025. He plans to stay for another two years in an advisory role.

Susan Bronson, the center’s executive director, has been tapped to take over Lansky’s position.

The center is based at a 10-acre complex at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., which includes a replica shtetl, museum, library, bookstore and storehouse. The organization has been working at digitizing its collection and making books available for download.

“Running the Center is the only job I’ve had since graduating college. For years, I worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. I hoisted so many boxes of books onto my shoulder I required surgery to repair the damage,” Lansky wrote in announcing his retirement. “I can no longer lay claim to the extravagant energy of my younger years when Yiddish speakers used to refer to me as ‘der yungerman,’ the young man.”

He added that “as proud as I am of what we’ve achieved, I recognize that the time has come to pass the torch to new leaders with vision, talent and dreams of their own.”

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates